Don’t judge Pakistan too hastily

Reading a few articles exhorting people to donate to the Pakistan floods, I literally feel sick by the hateful and ignorant comments posted on the articles. A case in point is an article by Ethan Casey that appeared in the Huffington Post. The comments range from paranoid Pakistan-bashing (‘what unites Pakistanis is their hatred of India’) to more widespread concerns about corruption and terrorism.

A few days ago I had read another article in the Telegraph titled ‘Pakistan suffers- but our wallets remain closed‘ and the comments on that one just horrified me because they were so downright racist. In stating their objections to helping out Pakistanis, some people had gone into everything they hate about Pakistanis and Muslims.

I realize that these may be some of the most ignorant and bigoted people out there and perhaps a minority. But when the majority of the comments are so hateful and people are ‘recommending’ (similar to the ‘like’ button on facebook) the nastiest ones, you just stop and wonder: Is this what the majority of the people out there think?

Maybe being surrounded by amazingly tolerant and respectful people at work (and before that at uni), I’ve developed a naive understanding of the world devoid of people’s prejudices.

Of course I also have to face the reality that things don’t grow in a vacuum. People who comment on the corruption or links to terrorism in Pakistan have some basis in reality (albeit exaggerated). I don’t want to get into all the structural arguments for why we are where we are, but it really saddens me to think that this is what my country has been reduced to.

Perhaps people’s short memories would make them believe that Pakistan has always been like this. But that’s not the case. And it doesn’t have to be either.

Yes, we’ve been a politically fragile developing country for most of the 63 years of our short history. But there have also been great moments. We’ve seen periods of remarkable growth and stability. Pakistan has produced some world famous inspirational people and the country has a lot to offer at so many different levels. It’s not all been perfect and I’m not glorifying the ‘past’. I’m just trying to put things into perspective.

Most nations go through periods of ups and downs. Afghanistan was a relatively ‘normal’ country in the 1960s showing similar development levels as its neighbours and look where it stands today. As late as 1990s, Iraq had one of the highest literacy and life expectancy rates in the Middle East along with its rich cultural and civilizational heritage (I’m not brushing under the carpet the abuses of the Saddam regime) and we know what’s become of it today.

On a positive note, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1950s and today it’s one of the strongest economies in Asia. Not too long ago, Ireland was mired by terrorism, instability and poverty (and some really horrible stereotypes were associated with that nation too) and today it is a respected member of Europe.

So all I’m saying is: let’s not give up on Pakistan so easily.